So, I’m a day late on this post, but it’s well worth it! I took some extra time to dig into the literary values of the prophecy. There is so much depth!!
And here we go into the depths of the prophecy.
This is where things start to get really rough. This is where we can feel the tension rise in Israel until they glaze over and say, “this just isn’t making sense” and go on their merry way.
for the Lord has a controversy (v 1)…
The people are corrupt. Their corruption has affected the land and everything. And you can’t even point a finger of blame anywhere because His greatest argument is with the ones who are to be most holy. The Priests! The prophets are even confused. What a state things are in with His people. What an end of themselves they have come to. Even their land dies at their touch.
I think the picture is too real to not feel the weight of it in our culture. The holy men are wrapped in controversy after controversy. The wisdom of the wise men is pure insanity. We can all feel this tension if we are honest with ourselves.
We are the sinful ones, but how do we bring this home for ourselves? How do we not just point to the broken world around us and say, “they are to blame!”?
Before we get there, let’s look at the sins that God lists as His objects of controversy.
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love (v 1)
In verse one God is giving a run down of the things that He is really taking issue with. This first line, “there is no faithfulness of steadfast love” (ESV) relates directly to verses 4-5, 7-11, 15 and the wrap up in 17-19. He is taking this sentiment of the people being faithless and loveless and intertwining it in examples from their lives and poetic reference to give a stark and vivid picture. The people’s lack of faithfulness directly relates to all lack of blessing and it’s coming from the top down.
let none accuse,
for with you is my contention, O priest.
You shall stumble by day;
the prophet also shall stumble with you by night; 4b-5a (ESV)
They feed on the sin of my people;
they are greedy for their iniquity. 8 (ESV)
These sins that are committed in the name of God before a people who are godless have stricken the land that He has blessed them with. They consume and are not fulfilled (v. 10) they sin and cannot figure out why they do not prosper in this land that was supposed to bring them so much blessing.
and no knowledge of God in the land (v 1)
This second phrase from verse one voices the second part of His controversy with His people. As Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.” So, even traditional understanding, and what we would consider conventional wisdom departs with a lack of the knowledge of God. And as Proverbs 1:7 tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The people had become foolish at their best. Completely degenerate in their heart of hearts. Again, this line relates directly to verses 6, 11-14, 16, and 17-19. God more fully narrates what is going on in the complete loss of wisdom and understanding of these people who go after their wants and the “walking staffs” of the world.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; 6a (ESV)
My people inquire of a piece of wood,
and their walking staff gives them oracles. 12a (ESV)
Like a stubborn heifer,
Israel is stubborn; 16a (ESV)
I really adore some of this imagery for their lack of wisdom. The most pointed press God gives as an illustration of how senseless they have become is His reasoning for a certain work of justice.
I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore,
nor your brides when they commit adultery;
for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes
and sacrifice with cult prostitutes,
and a people without understanding shall come to ruin. 14 (ESV)
You can hear His frustration. Why should He punish those among them who commit the crimes which they turn and commit against Him? And not only spiritually, but with cult prostitutes! And a long sigh as He says “a people without understanding shall come to ruin.” Rediculous foolishness shall be the end!
A wind has wrapped them in its wings (v 19)
The last thing I will touch on from this chapter is verse three, His explanation of what this has wrought already; and verses 17-19 which wrap all of this into a nice package.
Verse three gives a vivid physical example of what had, and was, happening among a broken people. Not just what would happen. The people of Israel were riding the long tail of a blessed prosperity. If they cared to look around them and realize the reality of what was going on in the land around them they could not fail to see a striken landscape. The prosperity was running out.
Verses 17 and 18 give us why. They are looking to idols and the prosperity itself to continue to fuel what they have come to live on. They no longer look to the giver of all good things for the answers they need for the bitterness that was already upon them. They stuck their heads in the sand and refused to see what was already there. How deeply their shame should actually creep, because of their faithlessness.
Verse 19 is a strange kind of poetical paradox for in the Hebrew it brings back the reference to the feminine quality of Israel in relationship to the Lord. This is what He is referring to in v 5 when He speaks of the mother. Israel is the mother who is leading the people into sin, the mother who has handed this evil to her children to continue, and the sinful adulterous in one. She is the whore (15), he is the drunk (17), and the children continue in the evil line (6). In this chapter the illusion seems to be to the children of Israel being the spirit, the ones under the priests, who are still not blameless of the whoredom that the great mother nation is guilty of.
And so, they are all wrapped by the wings of a wind. Soon their true spiritual nature will be revealed. And they will be ashamed of their sinful sacrifices they offered to God on His holy alter.
like a lamb in a broad pasture? (v 16)
Quite honestly this is where we are. In the broad pasture, being fed by the openness of God’s love. So how do we look at these warnings? What do we do in view of them?
There are a couple of great questions for introspection that you can take away from a beautiful passage, even of judgement.
Is there anything within me for the Lord to have a controversy with? If we are honest there are several.
How am I living in active faithfulness and steadfast love toward my God? This is a good question to ask to just see where you are active living your faith, for a faith without works is dead.
Is my knowledge of God growing? Do I begin with the fear of the Lord in my pursuit of wisdom?
How have I been wrapped in a wind? What is God exposing in my life? What ignorance have I been attempting to hide behind?
Praise God for His glorious goodness to us for giving us glimpses of Himself in His word to show our true selves through even our clouded vision!
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